Hawks edge Hardin County
Rushing hits game-winner with :02 left; Gallatin County wins 54-52

JUNCTION – In close games, like the one on Thursday night between two Greater Egyptian Conference foes with first place in the league on the line, sometimes it boils down to who has the ball last.

Gallatin County ended up with the final chance and Garrett Rushing got the job done.

Rushing got the ball in traffic and launched a shot surrounded by Hardin County Cougars with the clock ticking down.

His 10-footer banked home with just :02 left in the fourth quarter, giving the Hawks an important 54-52 win at home in game that was made up from a weather postponement from the original January 19th date.

The Cougars got a timeout with only :00.5 showing on the scoreboard clock.

However Coach Rodney Lane's team didn't get a shot off in time as the buzzer sounded on the Gallatin County triumph.

The Hawks improved to 5-0 in the conference and 13-8 overall with the important victory.

Sophomore Dawson Hish led Coach Doug Miller's squad with 16-points in the win while Rushing added 14.

Junior Robbie Prince tossed in 12-points and junior Audie Goebel added nine.

In a contest that featured 11 lead changes and three ties, the Hawks managed to rally from five-points down in the final minutes to stay unbeaten in the GEC.

“Rushing stepped up big tonight and he hit the big shot when we needed it. Tonight this game was 'heart and guts' and we got it done,” said Coach Miller. “This was an very important game because neither one of us (teams) could win the Gold Ball (conference title) without winning this game.”

For Coach Lane's club, 6-foot-5 senior forward Jamison Hicks came up big once again as he led all scorers with 20-points while junior guard Jaron Austin added 19.

Senior forward Hunter Cullum nailed three 3-point shots and finished with nine-points on the night for the Cougars, who dropped to 3-2 in the league standings and 8-11 overall.

The Hawks took advantage of some late turnovers by the Cougars to get the important win.

Hardin County committed 14 turnovers with five of them coming in the final quarter.

This offset a 22-of-37 shooting performance from Hardin County (59.4 percent) that normally would have gotten the Cougars a victory.

They also hit 6-of-9 from the 3-point arc.

“I thought Jaron Austin did a good job getting to the basket and Hunter Cullum hit some big shots for us,” said Coach Lane. “And Hicks hit some big shots inside and we did a pretty good job of kicking the ball out for the three tonight,” said Coach Lane. “Overall, on their court, you always want to win because it's for the conference and the winner tonight has a chance to win the title so that is kind of heartbreaking. But kudos to them (Gallatin County).”

Gallatin County ended up 19-of-41 overall (46.3 percent) and just 5-of-13 from downtown.

They committed 12 turnovers and held a slight 17-15 rebounding edge.

Coach Doug Miller's team jumped out to an early lead as Hish scored the Hawks' first seven-points on a pair of in the lane buckets and a 3-pointer from the left wing for a 7-2 advantage.

Hicks got a pair of early baskets in the lane, where the forward flourished for most of the night.

Then both Austin and Cullum hit long range shots as the first quarter ended at 11-10 Gallatin.

Hardin continued to get the ball inside to Hicks as the Cougars took back the lead at the half.

Hicks added eight-points to his resume, all on the inside.

For Gallatin they got five key points late in the second quarter from Goebel as the 6-foot guard/forward canned a 3-pointer and scored on a driving bank shot for a 24-22 lead.

Austin, however, closed out the half by nailing a 3-pointer as the Cougars went to the locker room up 25-24.

The Cougars hit 7-of-12 shots in the quarter to take back the advantage.

“We let Austin drive past four guys all night and Hicks had a 'heyday' against us in the paint. We talked at halftime that this has to be a defensive effort or we aren't going to win this game,” said Coach Miller.

Three more lead changes highlighted the third quarter with each team making 6-0 runs.

Gallatin County got a free throw from Rushing, a 3-pointer from senior Aaron Walters and a rebound basket by Goebel to take a 32-29 lead with 3:14 left.

Hardin County answered with buckets by Hicks, junior forward Gabe Fowler and a drive to the basket by Austin to retake the lead 35-32 heading to the fourth quarter.

Defensively the Cougars, who had played well for the first three quarters, were under attack from the Hawks in the fourth.

Four different times in the final eight minutes the Hawks converted conventional three-point plays.

Hish collected two of the four, scoring on a rebound basket to begin the fourth quarter to tie the score at 35-all.

He also added a 3-point shot in the mix.

But Hardin County matched the Hawks with Austin and Cullum both hitting 3-pointers.

When Austin scored on a drive to the basket, which turned into a three-point play, the Cougars led 46-41 with 4:39 remaining.

After two free throws by Prince, Cullum hit his final 3-point bomb as Hardin County looked like they were headed for the much needed league win.

However both Rushing and Prince scored in the lane while being fouled and both converted the charity tosses to get back the lead at 52-51.

Austin hit the back end of a two shot opportunity at the foul line to tie the score one last time with 1:06 left.

Both teams turned the ball over twice in the last minute with the Hawks ending up with the ball in the final seconds.

Getting the ball to Rushing, the 5-foot-9 junior's shot found the mark as the Hawks escaped with the home win.

“They (Hardin County) clogged up the middle pretty good with their 2-3 zone but we kept battling. I thought we showed a sign of maturity late in the game tonight. The other night against Thompsonville, the same scenario and same time of game, we turned the ball over. This time we were more poised and we got a good shot at the end,” said Coach Miller.

Coach Lane spoke highly about his freshman guard Jermaine Johnson, who made his first varsity start on Thursday night for the Cougars.
“The whole game was back-and-forth and I'm proud of my team. I'm proud of my freshman (Jermaine Johnson). He is wanting to hold his head down because he made a late turnover but he played a great game for us tonight,” said Coach Lane. “He has nothing to be ashamed of.”

Gallatin County controls its own conference destiny.

If the Hawks can win out against Thompsonville and Norris City-Omaha-Enfield in their final two league contests, both at home, they will capture the GEC regular season title.

Both teams are on the road on Saturday in their next action.

Hardin County heads to Johnston City while Gallatin County will take on Hamilton County at the Benton Shootout Saturday morning.

“Kids don't mean to miss layups; kids to mean to throw it in the crowd and kids don't mean to dribble it off of their toes. It just happens sometimes. But if you always guard and always hustle you can always get a chance to get it back,” said Coach Miller.

Hardin County
Gallatin County
Hardin County (52) – Cullum 0 3 0-0 3, Hicks 10 0 0-2 20, Austin 4 3 2-3 19, Fowler 1 0 0-0 2, Je. Johnson 1 0 0-0 2, Cowsert 0 0 0-0 0, Jo. Johnson 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-16, 3FG-6, FT-2-5, PF-13.

Gallatin County (54) – Goebel 3 1 0-0 9, Prince 2 1 5-5 12, Walters 0 1 0-0 3, Rushing 5 0 4-5 14, Hish 4 2 2-2 16, Reeder 0 0 0-0 0, Artman 0 0 0-0 0, Kiescoms 0 0 0-0 0, Henson 0 0 0-0 0, Seely 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-14, 3FG-5, FT-11-12, PF-10.

Fouled Out – None.
Technical Fouls – None.